Ghouta brigades in damage control following popular anger


July 2, 2015

Following days of protests in Damascus’s East Ghouta suburbs, rebel brigades met and agreed upon several points to quell popular anger, including a stop to random arrests and house raids, Wael Alwan, spokesman for Ajnad a-Sham, tells Syria Direct’s Ammar Hamou.

Q: Ghouta has witnessed continuous protests over the past few days. What has the United Command’s reaction been, of which you [Ajnad a-Sham] are a part?

“Immediately after the protests the United Command, represented by Abu Mohammed al-Fatih [leader of the Islamic Union for Ajnad a-Sham and Zahran Aloush’s deputy in the United Command] held a meeting with local institutions and notables. There were discussions concerning the protesters’ demands, and the meeting ended with the decision to take several steps:

1)      The approval of a plan for a [new] internal structure to transform the United Command from a military to general body.

2)     The formation of a civilian administration to oversee all border crossing points.

3)     Turning over all judicial files from the purview of military brigades to that of the United Judiciary.

4)     Requiring that all military groups pledge to stop house raids and arrest campaigns, as well as detentions, except when they have a judicial memo.”

Q: Rebel military brigades in Ghouta agreed [during the aforementioned meeting] not to raid houses or arrest people without first referring to the judiciary. But just hours after that decision, a unit with Jaish al-Islam arrested a number of activists and soldiers in Misraba. How do you respond?

“Unfortunately, the same morning the agreement was reached to stop, immediately, all arrest and house raid operations, a brigade in Ghouta undertook a random arrest campaign in Misraba. The arrests provoked Misraba residents.

Despite the fact that these arrests occurred after a leader of the [offending] brigade was exposed to an assassination attempt, that doesn’t excuse the brigade’s activities, which also included establishing checkpoints that disrupted the town’s geographical contiguousness. 

[Jaish al-Islam’s] campaign also targeted a leader in Ajnad a-Sham. He was insulted with the most ugly words, which stirred up considerable anger among residents as well as Ajnad a-Sham. The ordeal didn’t end with his release and an apology. For all these reasons, we reaffirm [the importance of] abiding by the judiciary’s rule, and following its orders.”

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